I knew I wanted to be a scientist when…

Every participant in the basic Science Communication Workshop at NYU writes a narrative responding to the prompt “I knew I wanted to be a scientist when….” The results, archived here and supplemented each semester with new essays, represent a rich and diverse literature on the nature of scientific inspiration. These stories begin in China and India, in South America and in middle America, in small towns and big cities. They all prove the wisdom of Henry Adams’s observation that “any road was good that arrived.”

I knew I wanted to be a scientist when…

The Inner World

By Jennifer Lenow

I never knew I wanted to be a scientist. When I was a child, I voraciously read and, more than that, watched. Listened. For large swaths of time, too, I did nothing. (But stillness is not idleness.) I would sit in silence and inspect my own mind. Instead of disassembling radios (like Richard Feynman), or […]

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I knew I wanted to be a scientist when…

Flying to Dharavi

By Indrani Chatterjee

I was born and bred in the big Indian metropolis, Bombay, in a middle-class home where a good education was valued more than anything else. My parents said I could be whatever I wanted, which is a rare thing for Indian parents (perhaps all parents). Still, it did not stop my father from reading Marx […]

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I knew I wanted to be a scientist when…

How to Tame Infinity

By Angelika Manhart

  I first knew I wanted to be a mathematician when Jenny and I started taking illegal shortcuts. Jenny was my best friend in primary school. Every day we’d walk home from school together. Me, short and blond-haired with two pigtails sticking out right and left, her with a red ribbon in her thick, black […]

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I knew I wanted to be a scientist when…

Swept Away…

By Gaurav Jain

I decided to become a scientist when I heard my grandmother tell me, “You were rescued from death by a religious healer who swayed his broom over you when even doctors couldn’t cure the pneumonia you were born with.” I was shocked. Growing up in a part of northwestern India where any logic was easily […]

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I knew I wanted to be a scientist when…

Coincidences

By Marcela H. Coronado

There it was. An elephant in the parking lot of the shopping mall. The circus had arrived in one of the new suburbs of Guadalajara, and they decided to make better use of the vacant parking lot by placing the circus tent there. I was walking towards the bus stop when I discovered him. I […]

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